In association with the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide joined Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, to view the blessings of the Restoration through the lens of gratitude.
“Our greatest blessings are associated with the Restoration,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “including a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and plan of redemption, the return of the holy priesthood with its ordinances and covenants, the reestablishment of the true Church of Jesus Christ, and the added scriptural witnesses of Christ in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.”
In a Thursday, Nov. 26, devotional streamed over the online missionary portal, the Christoffersons asked the question: “What is one aspect of the Restoration that you are grateful for — and why?” The hour-long session included video clips of missionaries answering that question, along with commentary and insights from Elder and Sister Christofferson.
Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Missionary Department, welcomed the viewing missionaries and introduced the Christoffersons as he conducted the prerecorded devotional.
A focus on gratitude
After mentioning the commemoration and purpose of Thanksgiving in the United States and similar observances on other days in other countries, Elder Christofferson acknowledged the Nov. 20 message on the healing power of gratitude from President Russell M. Nelson.
He encouraged missionaries to follow the Prophet’s example in expressing gratitude to Heavenly Father — especially for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ — and suggested they find ways to use the Prophet’s message and prayer in their findings and teachings.
Added Sister Christofferson: “We never want to be guilty of the sin of ingratitude. … As the Book of Mormon teaches, we should ‘live in thanksgiving daily’ ” (Alma 34:38).
Interspersed throughout the devotional were 17 brief video segments of missionaries answering the Christoffersons’ question through expressions of gratitude, commitment and testimony. Video participants are serving in the Philippines, Africa and the United States, with clips recorded in settings that ranged from missionary residences to the Sacred Grove and the restored Smith residences in Palmyra, New York.
Following each series of videos on a specific blessing of the Restoration, the Christoffersons added unscripted commentary and testimony to the missionaries’ responses.
The Prophet Joseph Smith
One sister missionary serving in the Philippines said in her clip that as she becomes more aware of the life, teachings and accomplishments of Joseph Smith, “I find comfort and encouragement for those particularly hard days of life and missionary service.”
Said Elder Christofferson of the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose First Vision with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ initiated the Restoration 200 years ago: “We do all owe him a great debt of gratitude for persevering despite persecution, despite hardships. … Where would we be if we hadn’t had such a person, such a man to stand up against all of that and persevere so that we could have the blessings of the Restoration?”
Sister Christofferson said Joseph’s example “lets us know that we can do this, we can handle hard things, and we can be strong.”
One elder, who told of gaining a testimony of the importance of latter-day prophets as he was preparing to join the Church, underscored the blessing of receiving revelation from God. “Every time I hear the voice and words of the Prophet, I feel the love of Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”
Sister Christofferson cited President Nelson’s late 2018 shift to a home-centered, Church-supported gospel study plan and how it has become an in-place necessity during 2020’s pandemic. “And now, here we are, because a living prophet had the foresight to know that would be the thing that we needed.”
Saying that “it started with Joseph Smith but didn’t end with Joseph Smith,” Elder Christofferson bore witness of President Nelson’s role as Prophet today, recalling when the latter was sustained and set apart to lead the Church in January 2018.
“What was really powerful to me in that experience in the temple was the revelation to me personally that this is not just a pattern, this is not just a practice — it was the Lord’s will, that Russell M. Nelson be called and set apart and become the President of the Church and the Prophet at this time.”
Knowledge of the Godhead
In a video clip shot in the Sacred Grove, an elder said: “My favorite aspect of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the knowledge that I have my relationship with my Father in Heaven, to know that I am a beloved son of His and that He wants to give me knowledge that I need in order to have a happy life.”
The crowning, foundational aspect of the Restoration, Elder Christofferson emphasized, is the true knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit as they are — “not an essence in the universe and not something impersonal, but real beings who know us and with Whom we can have a relationship.”
Sister Christofferson spoke of the Lord’s suffering when taking upon Himself the sins of the world. “When I started to put my true concentration on what He had suffered for me and what pains I may have given to Him, it totally changed my relationship with the Savior.”
The plan of salvation
Sister Christofferson referenced Job 38, where at the creation of the world “all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). “That is not just a nice, poetic comment; that is an actual reality that we were there and were so excited that the world was finally being created,” she said. “And I want to say that it’s not just the sons of God shouting for joy, but the daughters of God as well.”
Elder Christofferson said the plan of salvation allows one to know of an eternal plan and purpose — what has happened, what is happening now and what is to come.
“We are not left to wonder, we are not left to guess about what it is all about,” he said, adding that with a knowledge of Heavenly Father, the purpose of mortal probation and eternity that comes afterward, “it all makes sense — the commandments make sense.”
The Book of Mormon
Elder Christofferson called the Book of Mormon “the foundation of my witness of the Savior and my testimony,” adding that “it is the instrument of conversion in our time — it is what God has prepared for this dispensation for our conversion as well as for those you missionaries are teaching.”
With all the times she has read the Book of Mormon, Sister Christofferson said she still finds new and applicable teachings. “Every time we go through it again, we say, ‘Oh, there is one more thing happening in our day that we hadn’t seen before,’” she said, adding, “It is so current, it is so meant for our time.”
Sister Christofferson underscored the importance of restored priesthood keys to join families together forever through temple ordinances. “Those priesthood blessings and power are for men and for women and for children. Therefore, each individual has wonderful blessings that come through the priesthood.”
Noting there is limited understanding in the world today of the need for priesthood authority, ordinances and covenants, Elder Christofferson said: “But the Restoration teaches us how crucial they are for celestial glory. Maybe you don’t need them for the terrestrial or the telestial kingdom, but you need them for the celestial kingdom where God and Christ dwell.”
The organization of the Church
Said a sister missionary in Africa: “I am so privileged to be a member of this Church, because there are so many correct principles that I learned, which have made me a better person.”
While many today say an organized religion or institutional faith isn’t necessary, Elder Christofferson said “that is a pretty inward-looking religion, a kind of selfish faith, when you think about it.”
With the Church of Jesus Christ, he continued, “we are called upon to serve one another, to lift, teach, bless and help each other, to look outwardly. …
“Christ thought it was necessary. He is the One who organized it. There must be something very important to it. … The Church is so crucial to the preparations for the Second Coming.”
Concluding thanks and testimonies
The Christoffersons reiterated their love and appreciation to the missionaries. “In the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we consider you our companions in the great work of the Lord to gather His covenant people,” Elder Christofferson said. “We thank you for every effort you are making, for every bit of service you give, and for your good desires.”
Sister Christofferson offered her thanks to the Lord for the gospel’s great blessings. “I don’t know where I’d be without the knowledge we have, without the gifts of the Spirit that bless our lives and all the truths that have been restored that we’ve talked about today.”
Elder Christofferson reminded that without the influence and blessing of God, the Savior and the Holy Spirit, missionaries could never do the work they’re called to do. He called on them to thank their Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, for that divine influence and the opportunity “to have a part in His holy work, to work in the vineyard with him.”
“Gratitude is important to our happiness and peace in the present and our preparations for the future,” he continued. “In fact, if we are not grateful for today’s blessings, our faith in God and our Savior will be weaker as we look toward the future.”
The Apostle concluded testifying of the Restoration, the reality of the Godhead, the role of modern-day prophets from Joseph Smith to President Nelson, the importance of the Book of Mormon and the plan of salvation and other truths discussed during the devotional.
“I know they are true,” Elder Christofferson said. “And the proof of those things is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fact of His resurrection is the seal of proof and authenticity. … Our Redeemer lives, and He is at the head of the Church. He is your Guide. I bear witness of Him with great gratitude and joy.”